UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young
If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue.
– Deepak Chopra
There are many ways in which ego can sabotage our closest relationships. Ego sees everything from its own perspective and is only concerned with fulfilling its own needs. Many ego reactions or responses to life situations are rooted in our early years. When we are children, the ego is the predominant aspect of our being and, ideally, we evolve beyond it. Often, however, the conscious evolution does not occur and even if it does, remnants of the old ego may remain.
Think of the kinds of interactions that often occur between siblings: competition, arguments, vying for attention or approval, controlling behaviours and victim dramas. There is a polarity dynamic based on opposites: mine/yours, right/wrong, good/bad and win/lose. This same polarity thinking often characterizes parent/child or couples relationships. Unfortunately, the participants do not see this polarity thinking as childish for ego has them convinced that they are right and the other person is the problem.
Ego brings its own interpretation to situations. Anger is an emotional response based on one’s interpretation of a situation. It can occur when ego’s desires are frustrated because it is very much an ego-driven emotion. In relationships, the energy of anger is often toxic. When expressed, it can lead to inappropriate behaviours; if repressed, it can create bitterness, resentment, depression and a host of stress-related health problems. When an angry outburst occurs, it is often an indication that ego has taken over. It results in hurt, distancing and a lack of trust.
Another negative quality ego brings to relationships when there are differences or issues is the need to be right. Often, arguments revolve around who is right, but because it is an opinion or point of view that is being debated, there will never be agreement. More damage is done to the relationship as the conflict rages, whereas, the energy would be better spent considering how to proceed given the different perspectives.
In its desperation to have things go its way, ego can cause one to become very controlling. This can result in relationships where one dominates the other. If the other resists being controlled, the relationship may be characterized by power struggles. Sometimes, ego’s control is more subtle so that rather than obvious controlling behaviour there is manipulation or passive-aggressive behaviour.
It is clear that when ego is operating, relationships will be difficult. When two separate egos are both battling to win, or at least to get their own way, it becomes even more complicated. The struggle between egos may also be an ongoing theme in intimate relationships. Unfortunately, these struggles prevent the relationship from growing into one that is more mature and satisfying. Relationships can be fertile ground for growing, learning and evolving, but this requires two partners who are open to this opportunity. It also requires the ability to be aware of when one’s own ego is operating and to transcend its self-centered or reactive perspective. Focusing on the ego of the other only keeps the process polarized.
It is not sufficient to change ego-directed behaviours. Change must begin at the level of our thoughts or our internal dialogue. As long as we are thinking in terms of polarity, or judging the other, we will still be sabotaging the relationship.
We humans are sensitive beings and we know when we are being accepted and loved unconditionally. Further, we cannot bring an open and loving heart to a relationship as long as ego is in the way.
If a relationship is beyond hope and egos are strangling the life out of it, to say nothing of the effect on the individuals, it is time to get out and move on. But if the love is there and it is worth saving, it is time for ego to move on.
Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author of Growing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For more articles, permission to reprint and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit www.gwen.ca